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Graver v. Pinecrest Volunteer Fire Department

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, First Division

January 21, 2014

PAUL GRAVER, d/b/a First Government Lease Company, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
PINECREST VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT, a/k/a Pinecrest Volunteer Fire Department, Inc., a foreign not-for-profit corporation, Defendant-Appellant; (Jerry Moat, a/k/a Gerald H. Moat, Individually, Defendant)

Page 252

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 11 M2 573. Honorable Jeffrey L. Warnick, Judge Presiding.

Vacated in part and reversed in part.

SYLLABUS

In an action alleging a breach of plaintiff's agreement to lease a fire truck to defendant volunteer fire department, the appellate court reversed in part the trial court's judgment which denied the department's motion to vacate the default judgment against the department for lack of personal jurisdiction, since the department's chief and treasurer had no authority to execute the agreement with plaintiff on behalf of the department, there was no valid contract between the department and plaintiff, and without a valid contract, there were no contacts between the department and the State of Illinois.

Pretzel & Stouffer, Chartered, Chicago, Illinois, (Robert Marc Chemers and Philip G. Brandt, of counsel), for APPELLANT.

Paul Graver, APPELLEE, Pro se, Northfield, Illinois.

JUSTICE CUNNINGHAM delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Connors and Justice Hoffman concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

CUNNINGHAM, JUSTICE

Page 253

[¶1] On June 27, 2011, a default judgment was entered against defendant Jerry Moat, a/k/a Gerald H. Moat (Moat)[1] and defendant-appellant Pinecrest Volunteer Fire Department, a/k/a Pinecrest Volunteer Fire Department, Inc., a foreign not-for-profit corporation (Pinecrest VFD). On September 10, 2012, Pinecrest VFD filed a motion to vacate the default judgment pursuant to section 2-1401 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-1401 (West 2010)). The motion alleged that the default judgment should be vacated as to Pinecrest VFD because the trial court lacked personal jurisdiction over Pinecrest VFD, and Pinecrest VFD had a meritorious defense and exercised due diligence in

Page 254

bringing its motion to vacate. On September 24, 2012, the circuit court of Cook County partially granted the motion to vacate the default judgment, finding that Pinecrest VFD showed that it had a meritorious defense and had also shown due diligence. The trial court partially " denied without prejudice" the motion to vacate the default judgment as to Pinecrest VFD's argument on the lack of personal jurisdiction. Further, the trial court dismissed the case against Pinecrest VFD without prejudice. The trial court's order did not make a ruling on the matter regarding Moat.[2] Pinecrest VFD petitioned this court under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 306(a)(3) (eff. Feb. 16, 2011), for leave to appeal the trial court's September 24, 2012 order. This court granted Pinecrest VFD's petition for leave to appeal. On appeal, Pinecrest VFD argues that the trial court erred in partially denying its motion to vacate the default judgment because the court lacked personal jurisdiction over Pinecrest VFD. On appeal, Pinecrest VFD's only request for relief is that this court reverse the trial court's ruling which denied in part its motion to vacate the default judgment. For the following reasons, we vacate in part and reverse in part the judgment of the circuit court of Cook County.

[¶2] BACKGROUND

[¶3] On or around April 11, 2011, plaintiff-appellee Paul Graver (Graver), d/b/a First Government Lease Company (First Government), filed a complaint in the circuit court of Cook County against defendant Moat and defendant-appellant Pinecrest VFD. In its complaint, First Government alleged that it is a sole proprietorship, which is owned and operated by Graver and is located in Northfield, Illinois. Moat and Pinecrest VFD are Tennessee residents. In December 2008, Moat was the chief and treasurer of Pinecrest VFD. The record suggests that Moat was also an officer of a company known as First Response of Tennessee (First Response).[3] According to Pinecrest VFD, First Response was operated by Moat in order to sell refurbished fire trucks and tanker trucks. First Government's complaint alleges that Moat, on behalf of Pinecrest VFD, sought to purchase a tanker truck from First Response. Essentially, Moat was orchestrating a transaction in which his fire department (Pinecrest VFD) was to purchase a tanker truck from his company (First Response). First Government agreed to finance First Response's sale of the tanker truck to Pinecrest VFD. On December 13, 2008, First Government and Pinecrest VFD executed a lease agreement for the tanker truck. Moat signed ...


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